BYU’s win over Wazzu a confidence-builder ahead of former coach Bronco Mendenhall coming to town
Having gone 4-0 against Pac-12 teams with the 21-19 win over Washington State, BYU turns its attention to one of the nation’s top offenses in explosive Virginia
Offensive lineman Clark Barrington climbed onto the railing at Martin Stadium to salute the thousands of BYU fans who made the trip to the Palouse to watch their beloved Cougars play, including a couple dozen relatives and family friends.
Defensive back Malik Moore joked after dropping a couple interceptions — easier to do after a win and one successful pick, no doubt — and bruising running back Tyler Allgeier said he was as sore as he’s ever been after a game.
Thirty-two carries, including seven straight when everybody in the place knew the ball was going to BYU’s best player and he ran it down Wazzu’s throat anyway, will do that to a guy.
“We knew that we would face adversity, and one thing we have been focusing on all week is getting through that adversity and staying up and helping each other out and pushing along. So that is what the vibe was in the locker room — that we are going to get through this, we are going to continue to drive the ball, our defense will do their best to get stops, and we will come out on top.” — BYU offensive lineman Clark Barrington
For this resilient bunch of Cougars, Saturday’s 21-19 win over Washington State came as a relief as much as anything else. BYU became the only team in the country to beat four Pac-12 teams to date, but this victory was more about building its own confidence, after a two-game losing skid put BYU in what head coach Kalani Sitake called “a slump.”
Imagine what Arizona coaches are calling their 19-game slide.
Whatever the case, this is a win BYU desperately needed, what with Bronco Mendenhall and his 6-2 Virginia Cavaliers coming back to Provo this week for an 8:15 p.m. late-night special Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Getting a win, it always boosts your confidence, and so it is nice to have another win,” said Barrington, the left guard who teamed with left tackle Blake Freeland to clear the way for Allgeier to pick up 9 yards on his final carry and secure the first down so BYU wouldn’t have to call on Spokane native Ryan Rehkow to pin WSU deep in the final minute.
Added Moore, the ballhawking safety who invited social media followers after the game to needle him all they wanted for the drops — for one day: “I think for sure it picks up our confidence a lot, and shows us we are not out of it, we are no scrubs, you know?,” he said. “I think everybody’s chin was down, worrying about the last two games. This game really proved to us that we still got it, we are still a good team, we have won six games. Not a lot of teams are doing that, so we’re good.”
In getting bowl eligible before Halloween — an unexpected development for a team that lost Zach Wilson and more than a dozen other key contributors — the Cougars are sort of playing with house money from here on out, with Virginia and USC looming as the only possible stumbling blocks to a 10-win season.
Put your can’t catch jokes down below! After today not a word 😂😂— malik moore (@malik9moore) October 23, 2021
“We knew that we would face adversity, and one thing we have been focusing on all week is getting through that adversity and staying up and helping each other out and pushing along,” Barrington said. “So that is what the vibe was in the locker room — that we are going to get through this, we are going to continue to drive the ball, our defense will do their best to get stops, and we will come out on top.”
BYU expected a highly motivated WSU team after the school fired head coach Nick Rolovich and four assistants for refusing to comply to a vaccine mandate for state employees, and they got it. Credit defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki for designing a game plan that held Wazzu to 257 passing yards and 19 points.
“We lost to a good team,” said WSU tackle Abraham Lucas. “We didn’t roll over, either. I think a lot of people nationwide and even (in Pullman) probably expected us to just roll over and die.”
“I thought they had tons of energy,” Sitake said of the crimson Cougars. “It was a lot of fun. I feel really fortunate and happy that we got the win.”
Allgeier, who is now seventh in the country in rushing yards (861) and sixth in rushing touchdowns (11), said another win in Pac-12 territory was just what the doctor ordered before what is sure to be an emotional game against Mendenhall and company.
“I would say it brings the confidence back up,” Allgeier said. “We are 0-0 now, but we gotta keep that momentum going forward.”
It won’t be easy against the Hoos, who beat Georgia Tech 48-40 on Saturday in Charlottesville and have won four straight behind the sensational quarterbacking of Brennan Armstrong.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior from Shelby, Ohio, leads the country in passing yards (3,220) and is second in passing yards per game (402.5). Virginia is fourth in the country in total offense, putting up 539.9 yards per game with former BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae doing the play-calling.
Cougars on the air
at BYU (6-2)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. MDT
At LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Radio: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Defensively, though, the Hoos are below average. They are giving up 432.8 yards per game, which ranks them 105th in the country. They are especially susceptible to the run — ranking 113th in rushing defense.
The Cougars enter Mendenhall’s homecoming a bit shorthanded, as starting center James Empey and starting receiver Gunner Romney left the WSU win with injuries and didn’t return. Sitake said both are “doubtful” to play this week.
Right tackle Harris LaChance has been out for several weeks, but freshman Campbell Barrington has filled in admirably.
BYU continues to be thin at the defensive line, not good news with explosive Virginia coming to town. Lorenzo Fauatea and Caden Haws and Jacob Palu missed the WSU game.